Astronomers look to high-mass stars for clues to the origins of life

"High mass stars play an important role in the evolution of galaxies and ultimately hold the secrets of the origins of life on Earth," explained researcher Takeshi Sakai.
By Brooks Hays   |   Dec. 29, 2015 at 1:59 PM
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TOKYO, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- New research out of Japan promises to bolster the search for the origins of life in the distant cosmos.

The chemical building blocks of biological life were born in the fiery formations of stars. But which stars, and where and how?

Astrophysicist Takeshi Sakai believes large stars born in the stellar clusters 10,000 light-years away hold clues to the origins of life. But studying these faraway bodies is a difficult task.

"I am using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, ALMA, facilities in Chile to study the formation of stars," Sakai explained in a recent press release.

"In particular I am looking at 'high-mass' stars formed in clusters that are approximately 10,000 light years from the Earth," Sakai added. "High mass stars play an important role in the evolution of galaxies and ultimately hold the secrets of the origins of life on Earth."

Researchers believe roughly 70 percent of all stars can be found in stellar clusters, but the closest clusters -- and those easiest to study -- host mostly low-mass stars.

But new technology is improving researchers' ability to analyze distant clusters. By watching the changing chemical composition of stellar clouds found in faraway clusters, researchers can locate and study the early stages of star formation.

Recently, Sakai and his colleagues found evidence of a dense cloud rich with carbon monoxide, ammonia and complex organic molecules, suggesting the formation of a young star -- just 1,000 years old.

The early findings were recently published in the Astrophysical Journal.

"We hope this research will increase our knowledge of the formation of galaxies and ultimately shed light on the origin of life of Earth," Sakai said.

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